Five Thanksgiving Health Benefits

November 25, 2009

Five Thanksgiving Health Benefits

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and as we start to prepare the menu and gather the ingredients, or just get ready for the tasty meal, wants to remind you that not only does Thanksgiving signify the harvest and a time to pay thanks for all of the wonderful things in our lives but also remember that many of our Thanksgiving favorites are true nutritional standouts. Contrary to popular belief, the National Institutes of Health Reports that Americans on average gain about one pound between Thanksgiving and the New Year- not the five to ten pounds that most people blame the holiday season for. Below we have listed five favorite Thanksgiving ingredients and foods that all have (surprisingly) stellar nutritional profiles.

Turkey, the star of the thanksgiving feast also boasts a staring nutritional profile. It is a great source of lean protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorous. A 4 oz serving of turkey also contains over 100% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan. While most associate the essential amino acid tryptophan with the sleepy feeling after the big thanksgiving feast, tryptophan is essential for both appetite regulation and mood elevation.

Cranberries, the ultimate fall fruit, are tangy, tart, tasty and super nutritious! They contain vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese and vitamin K. Most well known for keeping our urinary tracts healthy, cranberries’ unique combination of phytonutrients and other compounds are also thought to boast gastrointestinal as well as oral health, prevent the formation of kidney stones, lower ‘bad cholesterol,’ LDLs and raise the ‘good cholesterol’ HDLs, aid in recovery from stroke and even help prevent cancer. Certain compounds in cranberries have also demonstrated anti-viral and anti-bacterial abilities. The list of health benefits from consuming cranberries goes on and on. Consuming fresh or dried cranberries (look out for added sugar) as a part of a balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, is’s recommendation for obtaining the benefits of theses tart and tangy fruits. Do remember that most Thanksgiving cranberry sauces contain a significant amount of added sugar, which should be enjoyed in moderation!

Potatoes, usually thought of as a super indulgent unhealthy side dish, as most of the time they are fried, or topped off with an excess of cheese, bacon, or sour cream etc,. are actually a great source of vitamins and minerals. Potatoes contain vitamin C, B6, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, protein and dietary fiber- as well as a variety of phytochemical antioxidants and can be an excellent addition to any healthy lifestyle. Some of the antioxidants found in potatoes are the well researched phenols and flavonoids that have shown protective benefits against cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

Keep in mind that baking, steaming or lightly sautéing helps to ‘preserve’ the amazing health benefits of potatoes… and keep the skin on because that is where many of the nutrients are found!

Pecans, are not usually thought of by any stretch of the imagination as a health food, especially because of their popularity as a decadent dessert topping, but is here to tell you differently! Pecans are packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and other compounds beneficial for good health. Pecans contain vitamins A and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, several of the B vitamins and zinc. They also contain dietary fiber and protein, and are a good source of heart healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. It has been suggested that a well balanced diet with the addition of pecans may help prevent heart disease (due to the vitamin E content, a natural antioxidant), decrease cancer risks, aid in lowering cholesterol and help in weight control (due to their rich nutrient profile and fiber content). In 2004, the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that “pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.” WOW!

Pumpkin’s nutritional profile, health benefits and rich antioxidant content are often forgotten (or completely unknown) due to its popularity as both a sweet pie filling and a sometimes scary jack-o-lantern. Both the seeds and the actual pumpkin ‘meat’ provide unique health promoting compounds that have been shown to benefit various systems in the body. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds boasts an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, tryptophan, iron, copper, vitamin K, zinc, protein and monounsaturated fats. Some of the benefits of consuming pumpkin seeds include improved prostate health, anti-inflammatory effects and the seeds may have a cholesterol lowering ability. The ‘meat’ or flesh of the pumpkin contains potassium, zinc, dietary fiber and the bright orange color indicates that pumpkin is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene- which is great for our eyesight among other things

.Who knew our favorite Thanksgiving ingredients and foods were such stellar nutritional standouts? wants to remind you that many of the traditional preparations of our seasonal favorites are loaded with not so healthy ingredients, but none the less should be enjoyed in moderation. Or hey, if you are feeling like you want you and your family to benefit from these amazing foods, there are plenty of healthier recipes and preparation methods that are sure to satisfy.

And did you know that a male turkey is called a “tom” and only “toms” can gobble, female turkeys, or hens, don’t gobble but make clicking noises!